Archival practice in mainsteam culture

In a state of utter jet-laggedness, I found myself flipping through the channels at 5am, already having listened to the morning’s news and having reorganized my kitchen cabinets.  By luck, I encountered PBS’s History Detectives, a show that takes items and explores the purported historical provenance of each item to determine its true historical significance.  Albeit much more interesting than any infomercial rivals, the show does a decent job explaining what information they use to confirm or deny each claim.  This particular episode had a Texan theme, covering explorations in Dallas and Gavelston. While I found the information, such as Dallas’ transformation into a major city via its railway, truly interesting, I was somewhat dismayed by some of the practices on the show.  Writing on old maps (presumably photocopies) and ungloved handling of materials were just some of my objections to the show’s presentation.  Furthermore, how they identified scholars and libraries and archives to visit remains a mystery to the viewer yet segments about the general, international history of money, for example, gets covered.  B shots are about all you get of any archive center.  Nonetheless, its always interesting to see how archives are viewed in mainstream culture.


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